Review by Rachenar
"Like the score, this game is halfway lost in limbo"
Paying 15$ for a sonic game might not be so bad, even despite its short length; after all, Sonic 3 was quite short too. The low price tag is especially welcoming for parents who played the old Sonic on Genesis, and want their kids to experience it. The problems arise when hardcore old-school Sonic fans expect Sega to create a faithful, classic re-creation of the blue dasher. I am one of the latter, and so this review will be mainly focused for fans of the 3 original Sonics. If you're playing this game for the first time, you would DEFINITELY get more enjoyment out of it than a series veteran.
Let's not kid ourselves, team Sega will probably never produce an album. The horrible chimes and dings from the first 3 titles are all back; collecting rings, bouncing off a trampoline, falling in a hole, spikes, even losing your shield sounds like it did 16 years ago, for better or for worse. Whether you're a fan of the Sonic music or not, there's really nothing to get excited about in this title; the only theme worth mentioning is the bonus stage music, where you're greeted with a smooth piano melody that's feels both current and classical. Unfortunately, it's the only area where the game seems to succeed in striking that balance.
Immediately, the game's graphics really shine. Bright colors and textures pop at you, and you quickly forget about the old pixelated Genesis graphics. HOWEVER, when thrust into a bonus game, a loading screen appears where an 'old' sonic is seen running. And then you think back, on the good old days, and realize that it wasn't the graphics engine that needed an overhaul. Keeping the same, old-school Sonic graphics would have worked fine, if it wasn't for....
Here is the major source of frustration, the one aspect keeping this game from achieving greatness. The controller is held sideways, like many modern platformer titles on Wii. Combined with the 2-D, the casual gamer's expectations rise. The first stage, Splash Hill, is reminiscent of the first stage in Sonic 1. Then, when the actual playing starts, the experience goes downhill. Fans of Sonic appreciate the blue critter for his insane approach to physics. Going down loop-de-loops at 100 mph, bouncing off trampolines, breaking boulders, all these were executed without breaking a sweat. Fans of the originals will oftentimes scream bloody murder, maybe as early as the very first jump. Calling the control scheme 'clunky' in Sonic 4 would be drastic understatement. For some reason, the developpers thought the game would be more fun if Sonic felt like he was carrying a 200-pound load. That's right, instead of feeling smoother, Sonic feels majorly hampered. Granted, he has been given a homing move, but the problem with this is that Sega expects series fans to resort to it ALL THE TIME, rendering old classics like getting into a ball and spinning, useless. Another problem is that Sonic has to be somewhat close to zoom, which means you'll often find yourself in that 'dead zone' where you can't home-in, and end up taking a hit or a life for it. It's a good idea, it's just really poorly implemented. Zooming through entire stages means you'll fall into a pit or spikes that you never saw coming, which is really cheap. The general clunkiness of Sonic also causes all kinds of problems; you'll have access to a bonus stage at the end of the level, only to zoom past the giant ring, or jumping right at it but still missing. You'll be standing on the edge of a cliff, waiting for a platform to arrive, only to jump right into the hole because of the horrible controls. It's a shame, really, because the experience does bring you down memory lane, with a few classics. Unfortunately, those few shining moments are ultimately buried underneath the horrible scream-fest that are the controls. You'll be wondering questions such as: Why isn't there a classic control scheme? Why are the bonus stages so hard? If there's an actual world called 'bonus stages', why can't I just select the bonus stage I failed, instead of having to do an entire level over again? Why can't I do a really simple jump? Why do the programmers expect me to land on a tiny narrow platform while I've been going 100 mph zooming through this stage? These contradictions and other glaring ones spoil the experience. Obviously the developpers implemented only one control scheme thinking 'series veterans are gonna get used to it', but why? Is is too much to ask for something that's fun and good?
Many disappointing games have been coming out recently, all sharing the same characteristic. It is the mortal sin committed more and more by modern games developpers, which is due, I think, to very contrasting customer demands. Some want a classic game, some want a modern game for their kids. This creates an identity crisis in a game, and Sonic 4 is the perfect example of that. It feels new but contains old stages, the music sounds old but is supposed to be 'technological', the gameplay foibles are numerous, these and many more frustrations hold back Sonic 4 from being the 'true wake-up call' the series desperately needs. In the end, Sonic 4 will be played, beaten in a few hours, followed with a thought of 'they just don't make 'em like they used to', then forgotten forever. Like the score, this is a game that is halfway lost in limbo and ultimately, fails to find an identity of its own.
Overall Score: 5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 10/13/10
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